Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Great Coffee Rubbed Pork and Brownies for Labor Day

Yes, you read it right. I did say coffee rub. You know, some time back this tea gal used to be a coffee drinker.  I do love the taste of coffee, it just doesn't love me back!

This is most likely the last artisan from the Williams-Sonoma Artisans Market I will feature for awhile.  But, I think I might have saved the best for last!  Virginia Willis is a friend and colleague of mine from Atlanta.  We met some years ago and made a connection.  She is a Southern chef and the acclaimed cookbook author of Bon Appetit, Y'all and the soon to be released Basic to Brilliant, Y'all which is available now for PreOrder. 

While at Williams-Sonoma, the minute I smelled her French Quarter Spice Rub, I was immediately taken back to a time and place much earlier in my life-my first trip to New Orleans!  I was 20 and decided to drive across the country for college from South Florida to Southern California all by myself.  It was sort of a rite of passage into adulthood in my mind. 

I can't believe my mom ever agreed to it,  but I know as a mother now, she must have prayed for me the whole road trip.  I had my trip planned out with all my stops.  I drove straight to Alabama and stayed at a hotel for the first time all by myself.  It was a strange feeling to say the least. 

I woke up early to get on the road to hit New Orleans for the day.  I drove my little Toyota Corolla into the French Quarter and parked.  As I walked around, I stopped at a little cafe called Cafe Du Monde for some coffee and beignets.  I don't know if it was because I was experiencing things for the first time on my own, the vibe of the French Quarter, the saxophonist playing in the background or what, but it was some of the best coffee and donuts I had ever had! 

I am not sure how Virginia managed to package all those memories into her spice rub, but she did.  I couldn't wait to get home and try it out.  I decided to put the rub on sliced boneless pork loin, but it is good on chicken (which I sampled at Williams-Sonoma) and steak too.  The rub gave the pork a unique flavor that we all loved-a spicy sweet coffee taste!  It is an easy way to give flavor to your favorite meat. I think a Sri Lankan Ceylon iced tea or a hot cup of slightly smokey Chinese Keemun black tea would pair nicely with the rubbed pork!

To finish your meal without any real hassle, you'll love her Pecan Brownies Mise En Place!  What is Mise En Place you might be asking?  It is a French culinary term that chefs use to describe getting all their ingredients ready for a recipe.  Well, Virginia has done that with her brownies using the finest ingredients-you just pour in the milk,  Let me tell you, the brownies don't taste like the brownie mixes at the grocery store-not even close!   I would pair the brownies with a hot cup of Indian Darjeeling tea or a Chinese Golden Monkey! 

You will want to check out all the products at My Southern Pantry.  It is a great head start to your Holiday cooking and shopping After perusing, you might even wish you were Southern too!

If you are in the Atlanta area, the products will be at Williams-Sonoma Lenox this Saturday!
Happy Sipping and Labor Day, Lisa

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Need Some New Tea Time Sandwich Recipes?

How about 400 of them!

The 400 Best Sandwich Recipes is a cookbook chock-full of recipes that you could pair up with any tea time event.  For me, tea time is anytime and all the time, so how perfect to have a cookbook that has easy to make sandwich recipes for any time of day or occasion that you can pair up with a cup of hot tea or a glass of iced tea!  It runs the gamut from breakfast to lunch to dessert with a special section on condiments.

I met the author Alison Lewis at a blogging conference last fall.  We chatted a bit and then exchanged cards.  When we got home, we started following each other on twitter and facebook.  I was so excited when her cookbook came out and thought it would be perfect for my tea-loving readers!

I cannot express how important networking is at conferences with follow up to the connections when you return home, but that subject is for another blog! 

It was hard to choose which recipes to feature, but I narrowed it to two. 

I loved the concept of Lunch Box Sushi, but not just for lunch boxes.  This recipe would be great for a Japanese style tea or luncheon too.  Pair this up with a cup of Sencha or for an interesting twist, make up a Iced Matcha Latte!

Lunch Box Sushi*

Serves 4 to 6

I came up with this idea because sushi for lunch is often requested at my house. These came out great, and I love using shrimp instead of crabmeat in this recipe.

1 tsp wasabi powder 5 mL
2 tbsp soy sauce 30 mL
2 cups cooked sushi short-grain 500 mL
rice, cooled
2 tbsp chopped green onions 30 mL
1 tsp Homemade Mayonnaise 5 mL
(page 321) or store-bought
1⁄8 tsp hot pepper flakes 0.5 mL
6 10-inch (25 cm) white or 6
whole wheat tortillas
6 sheets nori 6
11⁄2 lbs peeled cooked shrimp, 750 g
1 cup chopped avocado 250 mL
1 cup finely chopped cucumber 250 mL
1⁄3 cup soy sauce 75 mL

1. In a small bowl, combine wasabi and 1 tsp (5 mL) water. Add 2 tbsp (30 mL) soy sauce and mix well.

2. In a medium bowl, combine rice, wasabi mixture, green onions, mayonnaise and hot pepper flakes.

3. Line each tortilla with nori. Arrange rice mixture equally in center of each wrap. Add shrimp, avocado and cucumber. Fold both ends over filling. Roll up and serve with soy sauce.

Variation: You can use flavored tortillas in this recipe and imitation crab instead of shrimp.

Tip: Prepare your rice the day before. I like to prepare my sushi rice with seasoned vinegar and toasted sesame seeds.

I keep reminding myself that fall isn't that far off. This next recipe Pear, Pecan, and Gorgonzola Crostini would be perfect for tea time in the fall paired with a hot cup of naturally sweet Black Lychee Tea or a smokey Lapsong Souchong Tea.  

Pear, Pecan and Gorgonzola Crostini*
Serves 8 to 10

I love to make crostini appetizers during autumn. Pecans, pears and Gorgonzola are some of my favorite fall ingredients, creating an awesome crostini.

8 to 10 baguette slices (about 8 to 10
1⁄2 inch/1 cm thick)
4 oz cream cheese, softened 125 g
1⁄4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola 60 mL
11⁄2 cups thinly sliced pear (about 375 mL
2 medium) (see Tip, right)
4 tbsp liquid honey (see Tip, below) 60 mL
1⁄2 cup chopped pecans, toasted 125 mL
(see Tip)

Tip: Store honey in a cool place away from direct sunlight in a tightly covered container. It is not necessary to refrigerate.

• Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C)

• Preheat broiler with rack 4 inches (10 cm) from heat

1. Arrange baguette slices on a large baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 5 minutes or until lightly toasted.

2. In a small bowl, combine cream cheese and Gorgonzola. Spread bread slices evenly with 1 tbsp (15 mL) of the Gorgonzola mixture. Top with pear slices. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with pecans.

3. Broil crostini for 1 to 2 minutes or until pears are tender and cheese is slightly melted. Serve immediately.

Tip: When purchasing pears, look for ones that are fragrant and have no blemishes. I store mine in the refrigerator in a plastic bag.

I do hope you will try these recipes and pick up a copy of Alison's new cookbook for some new tea time inspiration!

Happy Sipping and Sandwiches, Lisa

*Excerpted from 400 Best Sandwich Recipes by Alison Lewis © 2011 Robert Rose Inc. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

**A special thank you to Robert Rose for sending me Alison's book.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Is the Kind of Water You Use to Make Tea Important?

You bet it is!
I knew this already, but was once again reminded of it this past week. 

In one of my Specialty Tea Institute Level 4 classes that I took last year, we had the opportunity to compare different water types with varying mineral levels using the same tea.  We cupped (professionally tasted) one tea that was steeped in several different water types. 

Wow, what a difference it made. It is so easy to taste the difference when compared side-by-side. However, when you are at home and only making one pot or cup of tea at a time, it may not be so easy to detect.  

The tap water at my house is drinkable, but I do think it contains a lot of chlorine.  At home, I don't have a fancy water filter telling me at what level each mineral is in my water like we do for the Specialty Tea Institute classes.  I simply use the filtered water through my refrigerator to brew my tea.  I have found it does the trick and brews even my high end teas well!

In the morning, my husband usually makes the first pot of tea and he always uses the filtered water. 

However, my daughter has become quite the tea lover in recent years and she "steals" our tea.  So, a second pot of tea is needed for the morning.  I noticed when she would make the infusion from the same tea, it tasted different and not nearly as good.  I just thought she wasn't getting the amount of tea or the time down right. But, I was wrong. She was doing everything the same except she was using un-filtered water.

It made a huge difference in the taste! 

So, if you aren't using filtered or spring water for your tea, you really aren't getting the most out of it.  Try a side-by-side experiment of making one pot of tea with tap water and one with filtered/spring water. 

Did it make a difference?
Send a comment back and let me know the results!

Happy Sipping (with filtered water), Lisa

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Have a Little Pickle with your Tea Time Sandwiches

This past Saturday, I headed back to the Williams-Sonoma Artisan's Market.  I met up with my food friends for a little chat and sampling-again!  The energy in the store was electrifying as it filled with people who wanted to try the samples and meet the artisans who create such wonderful food products. 

This week's blog feature is Phickles Pickles and owner Angie Tillman.  They are a pickle company located in Athens, GA.  For those of you not familiar with the South, Athens is the home of the University of Georgia and the Bulldogs!!!  I love to learn what inspires people to create.  If you want to learn more about artisan Angie Tillman's story go here, but be prepared to be inspired to get pickles!

I love the array of different vegetables that Phickles Pickles uses in their jars.  You can find carrots, tomatoes, okra, snap beans, asparagus and oh sometimes even cucumbers on a rare occasion!  I bought their green tomato Wedgies and love the spicy and sour taste of them.  They are perfect with a sandwich or even ON a sandwich with a glass of cold iced tea. 

Here is another way you might like to use them.  In my book, Tea with a Twist, I suggest using pickled okra or asparagus for stems with my flower power tea sandwiches.  It is an easy thing to do. I am of the belief that a sandwich with a pickle or some Phickles Pickles is a lovely pairing, don't you think so?

If you don't live close, no worries because they will deliver their lovely southern products to your doorstep! 

On a side note, I will be at Williams-Sonoma Lenox Square Atlanta store doing a tea and cooking demo on September 24th from 1-3 PM.  I hope to see you there!

Happy Sipping and Sandwiches with Phickles, Lisa

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Tea Book Review - The Secret Ingredient

The Secret Ingredient (Simon and Schuster 2011) is a delightful easy read book.  It is the second in a series of The TeaShop Girls by Laura Schaeffer.   Laura does such a great job describing ingredients and recipes that this book should come with a warning that states, " Be prepared to have plenty of tea and scones on hand while reading."

The book is written for middle school age girls, but I found it fun as an adult too! My initial thought was that my 15 year old daughter would read the book and write up a review for it as a guest blogger.  However, her prep work for high school got in the way of that plan.  It worked out perfectly though because I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one for myself!!!

The setting of the book takes place at The Steeping Leaf which is a tea shop located in Madison, Wisconsin.  The TeaShop Girls are a group of young ladies who meet at the shop for tea and talk time.  One of the girls is Annie whose grandmother Louisa is the owner of the shop.  Annie is competing to win a scone bake-off sponsored by one of the shop's tea suppliers with the grand prize being a trip to London!

I found myself cheering Annie on as she starts a blog, tries to find followers for her blog (key ingredient to getting to the bake-off) , and recipe testing in hopes of finding the "winning recipe." I love that this book encourages tea drinking, but also love that it encourages girls to start learning how to cook.  There are other wonderful messages sprinkled throughout the book such as healthy eating, organic gardening, and activism for good causes. 

The Secret Ingredient is the perfect gift for a young tween girl or for any young girl at heart that loves tea.  I can't wait for my daughter to read it-I know she'll love it! Here is one of the recipes that was featured in the book.  You will have to read the book to find out "the secret ingredient!"

Parmesan Berry Scones

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cold butter
1 egg
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup strawberries
1/2 teaspoon secret ingredient
1/4 cup whole milk

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Mix the dry ingredients together first, then cut in the butter.  Stir in one beaten egg and add cheese and berries.  Add the secret ingredient.  Slowly add the buttermilk to form a thick dough.  You may need slightly more than 2/3 cup.  Knead the dough on a board, roll to a 1-inch thickness, and cut the dough into 2-inch triangles or rounds.  Place each scone on a greased cookie sheet and brush the tops with milk.  Bake 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown.  Let cool for a few minutes; serve warm.  Makes about 12 scones.

Do you have a secret ingredient you put into your scones? Would love to hear about it!

Happy Sipping, Reading, and Scone Eating, Lisa

**Special thanks to Simon and Schuster for sending me the book to review!